The Last Laugh. (limited) Is there any topic that is absolutely off limits? That’s at the heart of this new documentary by Ferne Pearlstein. Using the Holocaust as the ultimate barometer, Pearlstein talks to some of the top names in comedy – Mel Brooks, Carl and Rob Reiner, Sarah Silverstein, Gilbert Gottfried, Susie Essman, David Steinberg, Judy Gold, Renee Firestone and concentration camp survivors to talk about how on humor can be found within one of the most horrific events in human history. It also ask a fundamental question: If humor can be found in the Holocaust, is anything subject completely off the table? All of the comics are in rare form, but it’s the stories of the Holocaust survivors – who used humor to keep them sane during their captivity that is more captivating. The doc also raises vital issues surrounding free speech and expression – issues that are more pertinent today more than ever. The Last Laugh opens in select theaters nationwide on Friday. You can also go to www.lastlaughfilm.us for more information.
Feud: Bette and Joan. The kick off to the new FX anthology series looks back at the legendary feud between two of Hollywood’s revered actresses. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange portray Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two strong willed, take no prisoners actresses who animosity towards each other helped fuel their performances in the only project they did together, ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?’ The series also covers how the success of the film only intensified their rivalry, as Crawford, stung over the fact Davis received an Oscar nomination over her, privately – and successfully -lobbied against Davis with Academy voters. She also upstaged Davis publicly by accepting the Best Actress Oscar in place of that year’s winner Anne Bancroft, who was unable to attend. But it would Davis who would measure a bit of revenge by convincing director Robert Aldrich (played by Alfred Molina) to fire a sick Crawford from their proposed follow up film together, ‘Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte’. Sarandon and Lange are great together as the bickering, bitchy screen divas, taking each other’s barbs as easily as they dish it out. Molina and Stanley Tucci are also terrific as the beleaguered Aldrich and studio head Jack Warner. As always, Judy Davis quietly steals scenes as Heddy Hopper, the iconic gossip columnist who keeps adding fuel to the fire. Expertly directed by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story), this is a cool, kickoff to a promising series. Feud: Bette And Joan starts March 5th on FX. You can also go to www.fxnetworks.com for more information.
Freedom Highway by RIhannon Giddens. For her solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn, Rihannon Giddens became the voice of female singer-songwriters who have been misunderstood, misinterpreted or, in some cases, forgotten. On her latest album, she channels those who felt the full brunt of the nation’s ugliest sins. Incorporating blues, folk, jazz, gospel, Cajun, and a splash of hip hop, Giddens connects the brutal, generational scars of slavery with (‘Julie’, ‘At The Purchaser’s Option’, ‘We Could Fly’), the American Civil Rights Movement (a spirited cover of The Staple Singers ‘Freedom Highway), to the current cases surrounding police brutality and the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement (‘Get It Right The First Time’). Giddens also uses a cover of ‘Birmingham Sunday’ to draw the eerie similarities to the church bombings that happened during in the 60s to the recent church shooting in Charleston. Giddens co-produced the album with Dirk Powell in his pre-Civil War wooden room studio, which emotes a sound that is immediate, raw and incredibly emotional. All of this culminates in an album that is part history lesson, walk through American history and gives a voice to those were voiceless. One of the year’s best. Freedom Highway by Rihannon Giddens is available now through Amazon, ITunes and all major music retailers.
Drunk by Thundercat. The third solo album from the critically acclaimed and much sought after bassist-singer songwriter is his most ambitious and sprawling effort to date. Spread out over 23 tracks, Thundercat is serious, loopy, tripped out and funny – sometimes all the same time. Along with long time collaborators Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington, Thundercat gets vocal and freestyle assists from Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins – both of whom add their SoCal cool to the future yacht rock anthem, ‘Show You The Way’. It’s the perfect album for the extended ride home, the off-kilter night at home and for any situation where unusual business is happening. Drunk by Thundercat is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
The Search For Everything – Wave Two by John Mayer. The second installment of the Grammy winning singer-songwriter EP cycle is a lot more punchier and loose than it was on Wave One. He’s still in post-breakup mode, but when he’s with The John Mayer Trio (which features Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan), Mayer’s seems content to grooving his pain away. With elements of blues, funk, soul and a J.J. Cale style vibe to the sound, Wave Two clearly presents Mayer on the happier end of a fractured romance. The Search For Everything – Wave Two is available now through Amazon, ITunes and all major music outlets.
Infinite Worlds by Vagabon. Multi-instrumentalist Laetitia Tambo, better known as Vagabon, shattered the racial and gender glass ceilings with the release of her 2014 EP Persian Garden. Now on her eagerly awaited full length album, the Cameroon born, New York based artist finds the perfect medium between maintaining indie roots and shooting for mainstream success. Shifting between brooding rockers (‘The Embers’, ‘Cleaning Houses’), shoegaze-style experimentation (‘Mal a L’aise’), punk infused declarations (‘100 Years’) and introspective ballads (‘Alive And A Well’) Vagabon shows that the hype is real, justified and here to stay. A strong, bold work. Infinite Worlds by Vagabon is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
I Me Mine: The Expanded Edition by George Harrison. To the surprise of even of the most devoted Beatle fans, George Harrison released I Me Mine, a book containing reproductions of his handwritten lyrics, stories and photographs. The first pressing was limited to 1000 copies, which, of course, went very quickly before gaining a national release some time later. To coincide with what would have been his 74th birthday, an expanded edition of The Quiet Beatle’s memoir is now available. 59 additional handwritten lyrics, stories behind the songs and previously unpublished photographs are included as well as forwards written by Derek Taylor and Harrison’s widow, Olivia. An absolute essential for any fans of The Beatles and Harrison. I Me Mine: The Expanded Edition is available now though Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th St, 1979-1980. In 1979, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a struggling artist barely making it on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He eventually moved into an East 12th Street apartment with up and coming photographer Alexis Adler. It was there where Basquiat would make the pivotal transition from hand to mouth street artist to one of the important artists of his (or any) time. As a companion piece to a new exhibit at MCA Denver, this new book features rarely seen photographs by Adler covering this period as well as essays by Adler, MCA Denver curator Nora Burnett Abrams, and a host of friends that knew and lived with Basquiat during this period. It’s an extraordinary look into the creative process during his formative years. Basquiat Before Basquiat is available now exclusively through MCA Denver. You can go to www.mcadenver.org for complete information.
New York City: Idiocracy. Writer-director Mike Judge’s satirical sci-fi comedy died a quick and painful death when it was released in 2006. Now, his vision of a world crushed by economic and environmental collapse, endless advertising, overpopulation, corporatization run amok and governments literally run by idiots is turning more and more to be prophetic than comedic. In the wake of the recent election, IFC Center will be screening the film all weekend. Its a great chance to see ‘Average Joe’ Bauers (Luke Wilson) and Rita (Maya Rudolph) work with President Camacho (Terry Crews) help save the country from itself – and point out a LOT of the things Judge’s script got right. Idiocracy will be at IFC Center March 3rd through the 5th. You can also go www.ifcenter.com for more information.
New York City: The Music Of Aretha Franklin at Carnegie Hall. With massive cuts (and possible elimination) of arts and education programs looming, Michael Dorf’s annual fundraiser (which benefits these programs for underprivileged youth takes on more urgency. Todd Rundgren, Sam Moore, CeeLo Green, Melissa Etheridge, Living Colour, Taj & Deva Mahal and Kenny Loggins are just some of the artists scheduled to put their mark on the Queen Of Soul songbook. Giving the material and the players involved, this is gonna blow the roof off. A can’t miss event. The Music Of Aretha Franklin at Carnegie Hall will take place on March 6th. You can go to www.musicof.org for more information.